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Old 18-07-2008, 19:07   #1
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US Coastal Waters

I need to sail down Vancouver Island, Canada to Mexico and on to Panama. The problem is, I have been deported from the US and have not yet received my residency card (I am married to a US citizen and will get it maybe in a few years, immigration is slow!) My question, how many miles do I have to stay off the US coast to not get stopped by the coast guard and not be accused of trying to enter the US. I have no intention to enter the US, but need to take my boat down to Mexico. Any suggestions?
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Old 18-07-2008, 21:16   #2
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Probably 12 miles.
See territorial waters: Definition and Much More from Answers.com

Of course you might want to stay way further out, to make sure rough wx doesn't push you inside that limit.

You would be safest by contacting the US State Department, or the Attorney US General's Office, and the USCG (Commandant's Office) and simply stating your situation, and the fact that you do not want to accidentally re-enter US waters, and ask them directly to confirm how far offshore you should stay. Those are the folks who should know for sure. If any of them thinks the 200-mile "economic interest zone" might apply...your trip may get somewhat longer.

Remember that even with the 12 mile limit, that's 12 miles out from outlying islands--not just the shoreline.
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Old 19-07-2008, 06:52   #3
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Innocent passage

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Innocent passage is a concept in admiralty law which allows for a vessel to pass through the territorial waters of another state subject to certain restrictions. The United States Department of Defense defines innocent passage as:
"The right of all ships to engage in continuous and expeditious surface passage through the territorial sea and archipelagic waters of foreign coastal states in a manner not prejudicial to its peace, good order, or security. Passage includes stopping and anchoring, but only if incidental to ordinary navigation or necessary by force majeure or distress, or for the purpose of rendering assistance to persons, ships, or aircraft in danger or distress."

Innocent passage should get you through as long as you aren't in inland waters, such as the San Francisco Bay
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Old 19-07-2008, 10:19   #4
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Don, I'm not sure I'd rely on "innocent passage" if I'd been deported from a country and actually wanted to get back in legally sometime in the future. First off, there's the question of whether someone (USCG?) who "found" you would understand that, or whether they would just run your passport and say "Oh, you were told to get out and not come back." They might very well jail you, or re-deport you (as they do to day laborers) and in the meantime, arrest the vessel. Leaving you "wronged" but now needing to start legal actions and lay out money to defend the case. Right or wrong--that can be inconvenient.

Then there's the question of what happens at the re-admission hearing, when some more officials say "How come you were redeported? Why didn't you stay out when you were told to?" and again, no matter what the laws say...they might deny re-entry and residency based on a perceived infraction. Another expensive case to pursue.

Without a letter from the DOS or AG saying expressly "don't worry about it, you can have innocent passage" I'd have to suspect that "innocent passage" is not available to folks how have been deported and told expressly "DO NOT ENTER". That's not the same as the general public. Most of our our state trespass laws, from the English precedents, run the same way. Wander into my yard, and it is just a misdemeanor fourth degree trespass. Wander back in after you were already charged and told to stay out--and it escalates to a different offense and possibly a criminal charge.
The guys with the uniforms and guns aren't expected to be lawyers, or familiar with the finer points of the law. Easier to not go there.

Bappz-
I checked some NOAA charts, the US "territorial waters" are marked clearly with a purple line and chart notes at the 12-mile distance on many of the charts, although not all of them. Probably depends on the chart scale and whether they expect them to be used internationally, but that would seem to confirm 12 miles.
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Old 19-07-2008, 12:55   #5
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While it might be easier just to stay out of the limit, don't forget if you're in a dangerous situaiton, you have the right to come in and anchor until the danger has passed. While it might be easier to avoid legal trouble even if you were "in the right" don't let that stop you from protecting yourself in case something comes up.
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Old 19-07-2008, 14:02   #6
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All good advice so far but in making the passage from Vancouver Island to Mexico you are probably safest to get well offshore. Most recommendations I have seen state 100 to 150 miles offshore. This will keep you well away from any "cape effect" you might otherwise encounter.
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Old 20-07-2008, 06:46   #7
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Doing a bit more research, I find that the United States is NOT one of the 156 nations which have signed and ratified the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 1982, which defines and allows innocent passage. Doesn't make me proud to be an American.
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Old 20-07-2008, 09:51   #8
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The US was an active party in the creation of the Law of the Sea conventions, and did in fact sign the final act. They held out on ratification over Part XI (seabed mining), but later signed the 1994 Agreement related to Part XI. They still have not acceded or ratified. Reagan created a 200 mile EEZ and 12 mile Territorial limit; and Clinton pushed the Contiguous zone out to 24 miles, and the US generally follows the principals of the convention, ie. with respect to innocent passage. Innocent passage implies that there is not a "navigationally similar" passage available on the high sea - I think you would have a hard time justifying passage within the 12-mile limit on a passage between Canada and Mexico, other than when cutting the corner leaving Juan de Fuca or at Mendocino, when (as others have said) it is navigationally prudent to stay further offshore. Exceptions, of course, for distress or "force majeure".
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Old 20-07-2008, 11:13   #9
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As Lodesman noted, the US Senate has never ratified the UNCLOS treaty (the full Senate has never considered the treaty).
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Old 20-07-2008, 11:29   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by usbappz View Post
I need to sail down Vancouver Island, Canada to Mexico and on to Panama. The problem is, I have been deported from the US and have not yet received my residency card (I am married to a US citizen and will get it maybe in a few years, immigration is slow!) My question, how many miles do I have to stay off the US coast to not get stopped by the coast guard and not be accused of trying to enter the US. I have no intention to enter the US, but need to take my boat down to Mexico. Any suggestions?
Have you considered having your vessel delivered to Mexico from Canada and flying down to meet it there and resume command? In the long run, it could save you a world of grief from some over-zealous, knuckle-dragging, patriotic martinet "protecting" the US from "terrorists."

Better, it seems to me, to avoid such possibility entirely.

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Old 20-07-2008, 11:35   #11
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It always helps to dig a bit, when the broad generalizations are being bandied about. The U.S. disagreed with only one part of UCLOS, and does support the right of innocent passage.

from Wikipedia.com

"United States non-ratification

The United States strongly objected to the provisions of Part XI of the Convention on several grounds, saying that the treaty is unfavorable to America's economy and security. The US felt that the provisions of the treaty were not free-market friendly and were designed to favor the economic systems of the Communist states. The US also felt that the provisions might result in the ISA becoming a bloated and expensive bureaucracy due to a combination of large revenues and insufficient control over what the revenues could be used for.

Due to Part XI, the US refused to ratify the UNCLOS, although it expressed agreement with the remaining provisions of the Convention. Even though the United States is not a party to the treaty, it considers many of the remaining provisions as binding as customary international law."
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Old 27-07-2008, 07:18   #12
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Why not just do it the simple way, write to the INS and explain the situation and that you are not going to set foot on US soil. and you just want passage through the U.S. waters on you're way to Mexico. When they respond, and tell you one way or the other, the letter if saying it's okay. will be all you need. If no luck there, just go to the U.S. Embassy in Vancouver, I guess it's still there and explain the situation to them. They are easier to get along with, but I would go for the INS first.
Had a friend a few years ago in the same situation as you and thats all he did to make a trip to Mexico through US waters.
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Old 27-07-2008, 07:26   #13
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Doesn't make me proud to be an American.
Well thats nice. Beware entering into treaties. Best just to pass the agreed provisions into US law. Why create obligations to other countries?
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Old 28-07-2008, 14:49   #14
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Santana,

Have you ever had to do business with the INS? It could take a lifetime to get a response, and you will get different answers from different parties for the same question. Go the embassy, and get it in writing.

Going downwind, and down current. Even a tub will do a 100 miles a day. The worst that could happen is you will sail about 16 days non-stop with everything favorable.....BEST WISHES in getting the mess sorted out!
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